Justice In Nigeria Now!

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Archive for the ‘Alien Tort Statute’ Category

Chevron asks Nigerian Plaintiffs for Nearly $500,000

Posted by sarahjinn on February 2, 2009

Chevron filed a motion seeking $485,000 in costs from the Nigerian villagers who sued the company for aiding and abetting shootings, killing and torture in U.S. federal court this fall. According to the most recent UN statistics in 2006 the per capita income for a Nigerian was $912. Justice in Nigeria Now! (JINN) notes that Nigerians living in the Niger Delta’s oil producing communities are the poorest in the country and although there are no readily accessible per capita income figures for a resident of the Delta, it is certain that the figure is significantly lower than for the population of country taken as a whole. JINN’s founder, Laura Livoti says that Chevron’s attempt to squeeze nearly half a million dollars out of poor villagers who don’t even have access to clean drinking water and who had wanted jobs with the company is a dramatic illustration of Chevron’s heartlessness. To get a sense of what Chevron is asking of these villagers you need to understand that $485,000 could sustain the people of at least four or five Ilaje villages of a few hundred people in the Niger Delta for a year. Contrast this request for $485,000 (nearly $200,000 for making photocopies) of poor villagers with the $23.4 billion in recordbreaking profit the company earned in 2008.

Ed Kashi

Typical house in Ikorigho, Nigeria where many of the plaintiffs reside Credit: Ed Kashi

While Chevron claims to be sympathetic to those who live where it extracts oil, the fact that the company would further impoverish the very people whose lives their operations have devastated and who were shot by the Nigerian military who were flown in and paid by Chevron is a perfect representation of the wide gulf that exists between reality on the ground and the executives in the headquarters and public relations suites located comfortably in the San Francisco Bay Area. Although the jury did not find Chevron liable in the Bowoto v. Chevron case, the fact that Chevron flew in the notoriously brutal military who shot killed and injured Nigerians staging a peaceful unarmed sit-in on the oil platform was not disputed by the company.

See recent article in the LA Times for further information on this story.

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Posted in Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, Chevron, Niger Delta, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

JINN Statement on Verdict: Chevron Trial Still a Victory

Posted by sarahjinn on December 1, 2008

Corporate Accountability Advocates Claim Victory, Despite Verdict in Human Rights Case Against Chevron

Bowoto Case Showed There is a Legal Foundation For Corporations to be Held Liable in US Courts for Human Rights Abuses Committed Overseas

SAN FRANCISCOO Monday, December 1, a US district court jury acquitted San Ramon-based Chevron Corporation of complicity in human rights abuses. The case of Bowoto v. Chevron, which pitted Chevron and its relationship with the notoriously violent Nigerian police and military against Nigerians who peacefully protested the destruction of their environment and livelihood by Chevron’s oil production activities. Despite the verdict, corporate accountability advocates vowed to continue the struggle to bring Chevron and other corporations to justice for human rights violations they commit overseas.

“The fact that Bowoto v. Chevron made it this far in the process is a victory in and of itself, because it means that we have demonstrated that there is a clear pathway in the US court system for holding corporations accountable to the rule of law. This is the first time a case against a company for aiding and abetting human rights violations overseas has even gone before a jury. And although we are disappointed that the plaintiffs did not prevail in this case, we are heartened by the fact that we are now entering a new era in the United States and abroad where people have seen the results of unregulated corporate excess (in the financial system and elsewhere) and want corporations to be reined in to prevent serious harms. Bringing this case to trial in the United States is a step on the path to corporate accountability. In the near future, corporations will no longer have a free ride to do operate with impunity in ways that are destructive and dehumanizing,” said Laura Livoti, founder of the group Justice in Nigeria Now.

“Regardless of the verdict, the Bowoto v. Chevron case represented a watershed in terms of corporate accountability. The details of the Nigerian case – of human rights abuses in the global operations of the oil and gas industry – can be replicated many times over in different industrial sectors in different parts of the world. Now communities around the world know that they have recourse to legal mechanisms to bring corporations that violate their human rights to justice,” said Michael Watts, a professor at UC Berkeley and author of numerous books on the Niger Delta, including Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta.

Bowoto v. Chevron concerned a 1998 incident in which Nigerian soldiers and police shot unarmed residents of the Ilaje community in southern Nigeria who were staging a nonviolent sit-in at Chevron’s offshore Parabe Platform to demand that Chevron change its practices. Chevron’s operations have devastated local communities’ access to food and clean water. The protester also demanded that the company support the local economy by hiring local residents. In response to the peaceful protest, Chevron summoned the notoriously violent Nigerian police and military and transported them in Chevron helicopters to the oil platform. Under the supervision of Chevron personnel, the Nigerian military and police killed two protesters and permanently injured others. Several protesters were taken to Nigerian jails, where they were tortured.

The jury was charged with deciding whether Chevron aided and abetted the Nigerian military, in violation of international law. The legal basis for the case was the Alien Tort Statute, a law that enables foreign victims of human rights violations by corporations to hold a US corporation accountable in US court for violations of the law of nations overseas. The Alien Tort Statute has been used in cases charging Unocal with violating the human rights of Burmese villagers during the construction of an oil pipeline in Burma, and charging Yahoo with giving the Chinese government information that allowed it to identify and arrest a Chinese dissident. Both of those cases ended in out-of-court settlements. Bowoto v. Chevron would have been the first time a U.S. corporation has been held liable by a jury in U.S. courts for aiding and abetting human rights abuses committed overseas.

Posted in Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, Chevron, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

US Jury Begins Deleberations in landmark Suit Aganist Chevron

Posted by sarahjinn on November 26, 2008

After spirited closing arguments yesterday by both attorneys for the plaintiffs and the defendants in the case of Bowoto v Chevron being tried in San Francisco, the 9-member jury for the Northern California District Court began deliberations late in the day.  As of Wednesday afternoon at 1pm (when court closed for the holiday weekend) a verdict is still to be determined.  For an account of the closing statements  read the latest articles in the San Francisco Chronicle by Bob Egelkos and The LA Times piece by  Richard Paddock

The jury will need to find liability on the part of Chevron for the killing, injury and torture of the Nigerian plaintiffs for the following violations under the Alien Tort Statute:

  • Torture
  • Wrongful Death
  • Cruel, inhumane, degrading treatment
  • Assault
  • Battery
  • Negligence

Be sure to read the Bowoto v Chevron Blog for a full account of the court proceedings since the trial opened on October 27.

Posted in Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, Chevron, Nigeria, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Closing Arguements for Bowoto v Chevron planned for Tuesday Nov. 25

Posted by sarahjinn on November 20, 2008

On Monday Chevron will present its final day of testimony and evidence. Closing arguments will be given on Tuesday, November 25 and jury deliberations will begin on Wednesday, November 26, the day before Thanksgiving. It’s unknown how long the jury will deliberate, but this landmark case could hear a verdict very soon.

We encourage those of you in the Bay Area  to quietly and respectfully observe the closing arguments on Tuesday to show your solidarity with the Nigerian plaintiffs who have worked so hard to bring their case to Chevron’s home town. Go to   450 Golden Gate, 19th floor Courtroom 10 in San Francisco. Court is in session from  8:30am-3:30pm on Tuesday November 25.

Posted in Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, Chevron, Nigeria, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Nigerian Activist Ken Saro Wiwa Hanged thirteen years ago this week

Posted by sarahjinn on November 12, 2008

Ken Saro Wiwa Hanged by the Nigerian Government with 8 other activists:

October 10,1941 - November 10, 1995

Ken Saro Wiwa: October 10,1941 - November 10, 1995

This week marks the 13th anniversary of the death of famed Nigerian activist, Ken Saro Wiwa. On November 10, 1995 Wiwa and 8 other Ogoni activists, known as the Ogoni 9 were ruthlessly executed by the then Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha.  Wiwa and his colleagues were members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) who peacefully protested against Shell Oil and the Nigerian government for human rights abuses and environmental damage in their community.

Early next year, Wiwa’s son will have his day in court in New York when it will be decided whether or not Royal Dutch Shell will be held liable for their complicity for human rights abuses against the Ogoni people in Nigeria, including summary execution, crimes against humanity, torture, inhumane treatment, arbitrary arrest, wrongful death, assault and battery, and infliction of emotional distress. Similar to the case against Chevron currently being heard in the Northern California Federal District Court, the two cases against Shell were brought under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). In addition, the Shell cases will be tried under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). The cases also allege that the corporation violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, according to Earth Rights International, co-counsel for the case.

Wiwa was known for his ability to mobilize hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters that successfully drove Shell out of their community.  His death serves as a shift in Nigerian history when political and social unrest in the Niger Delta was addressed in a peaceful way to a gradual move toward a violent approach that faces the Niger Delta today. The current violence stems from decades of demands not being met, and corruption and divide and rule tactics that continue to tear the region apart. Violent responses were taken to new levels in 2006 with the formation of the well armed group – the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta known as MEND.

Posted in Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, Chevron, Nigeria, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

SF Chronicle: No hostages on Chevron barge, expert testifies

Posted by sarahjinn on November 6, 2008

Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer

The former chief hostage negotiator for New York City police, testifying as an expert in a trial over the shootings of Nigerian villagers on a Chevron oil barge, said Monday that the villagers were not holding employees hostage and that the company should not have summoned the Nigerian military.

“This probably was not a hostage situation. It was more like a civil disobedience or a sit-in,” Hugh McGowan, who now teaches classes to law enforcement officers nationwide on hostage negotiations, told a federal court jury in San Francisco.  Go to Article

Posted in Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, Chevron, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Economist: Test Case–How far can America’s legal system be applied to foreign human-rights cases?

Posted by sarahjinn on October 30, 2008

Under a grey sky on October 27th, Larry Bowoto provided an improbable splash of colour in his Nigerian agbada gown before the federal courthouse in San Francisco. He is the lead plaintiff in a case against Chevron, an oil giant based in California, over something that happened in May 1998 on a platform operated by Chevron’s Nigerian subsidiary, nine miles off the Niger Delta.

Bowoto v Chevron is likely to test how the American legal system can be applied to human rights in other countries. The civil suit is being brought under the 1789 Alien Tort Claims Act, one of America’s oldest laws (it was signed by George Washington). The act allows foreigners to bring civil cases before American courts arising from violations of law or treaty anywhere in the world. It was invoked just twice before 1980, when it was used by a victim of state repression in Paraguay. Since then the act has been invoked in around 100 cases. In 1993 a case against Radovan Karadzic for crimes against humanity in Bosnia broadened its applicability to non-state actors. In 1996 a group of Burmese villagers brought a suit against Unocal, another oil company (subsequently bought by Chevron), over the use of forced labour by Burmese soldiers guarding the route of a gas pipeline. The case was settled in 2004. Go to Article

Posted in Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, Nigeria, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Media Roundup from Bowoto vs. Chevron, Witness Testimony Begins

Posted by sarahjinn on October 30, 2008

MercuryNews.com Protesters’ behavior at heart of trial on whether Chevron violated human rights

When Larry Bowoto returns to the witness stand in federal court here Thursday, he is expected to recount being shot several times by Nigerian forces called in and allegedly paid for by a Chevron subsidiary during a 1998 protest aboard a barge tethered to an offshore oil rig.

….

The Chevron case, which started this week and is expected to run into December, is shedding light on the tense politics along the Niger Delta around the company’s oil operations there, and claims of environmental damage from the companies drilling and dredging operations.

Chevron contends the villagers who boarded the barge were seen with knives, and that one threatened to set the barge aflame.

A barge worker from another village, Johnson Boyo, testified Wednesday that he saw no weapons and no intimidating tactics from the protesters, who reached the rig in about 30 small boats. Boyo, testifying for the plaintiffs, said soldiers flown onto the barge by helicopter began shooting, and that later he watched soldiers beating a young man with the butt of a gun.

The leader of a small military force that had been stationed aboard the barge yelled at them, Boyo testified.

“He shouted, ‘Stop, stop stop! The protest was peaceful,'” Boyo said.

Under cross-examination by a Chevron lawyer, Boyo acknowledged that he was among a different group of Nigerians who had boarded the barge two months earlier, seeking jobs. Following that protest, Boyo said, he was hired to work there.

Bowoto, the lead plaintiff in the case, wept, trembled and pressed a cloth over his eyes near the start of his testimony Wednesday when asked to identify Arolika Irowarinum in a picture.

Irowarinum was one of the two men killed in the attack. His three Nigerian widows, wearing traditional dresses and matching headscarves, cried from the front row of the gallery before Judge Susan Illston briefly halted the testimony.

Testifying through an interpreter, Bowoto said he was a coordinator of a group called Concerned Ilaje Citizens that was endorsed by elders of several Ilaje villages. He said the group was intent on a peaceful protest, and he insisted that no weapons or alcohol come aboard.

Bowoto testified that Chevron had denied their demand to meet with a general manager from Chevron Nigeria. The day before the attack, he said, the protesters planned to leave the barge the following day.

He said that he had been a fisherman, and that Chevron’s dredging had introduced salt water into a freshwater canal, affecting wells and killing fish and vegetation. As they approached the barge, Bowoto said, the protesters sang.

“All we are saying “… give us our rights,” Bowoto testified by singing in English. “All we are saying “… give us our jobs.”  Go to Article

Posted in Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, Chevron, Nigeria, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Media Roundup from Bowoto vs. Chevron, Opening Arguments

Posted by sarahjinn on October 29, 2008

Democracy Now Landmark Trial Against Chevron Begins Over Its Role in the Niger Delta

Democracy Now interviews Laura Livoti, Founder of Justice in Nigeria Now, and Omoyele Sowore, longtime Nigerian human rights activist, and plays an excerpt of Democracy Now!‘s award-winning documentary, Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship Go to Audio/Video

SF Chronicle, Opening Arguments in Chevron Trial

Chevron Corp. unleashed a “notoriously brutal and vicious” Nigerian military force on peaceful protesters at an offshore oil rig in 1998, a lawyer for a group of villagers accusing the company of human-rights violations told jurors in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Two men were killed and two were wounded by shots fired by troops summoned by Chevron’s Nigerian subsidiary on the fourth day of a confrontation with more than 100 villagers. Jurors assessing the plaintiffs’ claims of assault, torture and wrongful death must decide whether to believe their description of a nonviolent demonstration or Chevron’s account of a violent hostage-taking.   Go to Article

LA Times Trial gets underway in human rights case against Chevron

Opening statements began Tuesday in a trial over whether Chevron Corp. colluded with the Nigerian military in 1998, when troops broke up a protest at an offshore oil rig, killing two villagers.

The suit was brought under a federal law that allows foreigners to sue American companies for alleged human rights violations in other countries. The case in U.S. District Court is being closely watched by human rights advocates seeking to hold U.S. corporations accountable for their actions overseas.  Go to Article

Reuters U.S. court told Chevron paid forces in Nigeria clash

Chevron Corp fed, housed and paid Nigerian military forces involved in a deadly clash with local residents occupying an oil platform more than a decade ago, a jury was told on Tuesday at a federal trial in which the oil company is accused of human rights abuses. Go to Article

Houston Chronicle Chevron blamed in Nigeria deaths

Chevron Corp. is responsible for the deaths, injuries and torture of unarmed Nigerians attacked in 1998 on an offshore drilling platform by soldiers summoned by the second-largest U.S. oil company, an attorney told a jury Tuesday. Go to Article

Posted in Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, Chevron, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Media Roundup from Bowoto vs. Chevron, Rally & Jury Seated

Posted by sarahjinn on October 28, 2008

Though the SF Chronicle and Huffington Post stories from the weekend still provide the best background, the start of the trial and rally attracted a wide variety of media coverage:

ABC 7 Many protest outside Chevron gas station

A Conflict that began 10 years ago on a Nigerian oil platform continues in a San Francisco courtroom. It happened about nine miles off the Nigerian coast. Now Chevron is being sued in federal court over how it resolved a hostage situation between its workers and local Nigerians who boarded that platform.  Go to Video

CBS 5 Nigerian and U.S. Human Rights Groups Protest at Chevron Station

An alliance of grassroots human rights groups from Nigeria and the U.S. gathered at a Chevron gas station in San Francisco today to show support for the Nigerian plaintiffs in a federal human rights trial that began today.

Organizers from Global Exchange, Justice in Nigeria Now, and West County Toxics Coalition, based in Contra Costa County, gathered about 100 anti-Chevron protesters in front of the company’s gas station at 9th and Howard streets in San Francisco early this afternoon. Go to Video

KCBS Chevron Goes on Trial in San Francisco Federal Court

A federal trial began Monday to determine if San Ramon-based Chevron was responsible for a deadly clash between Nigerian forces and locals occupying an oil platform ten years ago.

The trial in San Francisco federal court concerns the death of one protestor and the injury of several others who shut down the Parabe platform for three days before armed forces flew in on a Chevron contractor’s helicopters to respond. Go to Audio

SF Chronicle Jury Seated in Chevron Trial

… In court today, Chevron won permission to offer evidence of an alleged hostage-taking incident that it says supports its overall version of events. As Nigerian forces were shooting at some of the protesters, the company says, other villagers swam to a Chevron Nigeria tugboat and forced seven employees to take the craft to a village, where they were held captive for three days.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that the incident, if it ocurred, was irrelevant to the questions of whether the shootings were justified and whether Chevron was responsible. But U.S. District Judge Susan Illston said the company could present the incident to try to show that the entire protest was a violent takeover. Go to Article

Reuters Chevron on trail for 1998 platform clash

… The dispute fits into a broader political discussion about the responsibilities of U.S. companies abroad. The head of a Senate subcommittee on human rights and the law argued last month at a hearing on corporate responsibility and natural resources that the issue was not “black and white.”

“There is no doubt that American oil, gas and mining companies operating in countries with poor human rights records face difficult challenges in protecting their employees and operations,” Sen. Richard Durbin said.

“However, when American companies choose to go into these countries, they assume a moral and legal obligation to ensure that security forces protecting their operations do not commit human rights abuses.” Go to Article

Law.com: Judge: Chevron Must Remove Paid Google Link Tied to Search of Plaintiff’s Name

A widely watched trial over Chevron’s Nigerian operations featured a new online frontier Monday in the battle to influence the hearts and minds of potential jurors.

While imposing a general gag order, Northern District of California Judge Susan Illston ordered Chevron to take down a paid Google link sponsored by the company. Plaintiffs objected to the link, which directed Internet surfers to a Chevron-created Web site that provided information about the incident at issue in trial. Go to Article

Oil & Gas Journal Chevron on trial in San Francisco for rights abuses

Chevron Corp. is at the center of a legal case before federal court in San Francisco that will ask jurors to decide whether the firm sanctioned human rights abuses that resulted in the deaths and injuries of protesters at its Nigerian facilities, or whether the company was simply protecting its employees from belligerent kidnappers.

The lawsuit—identified as Bowoto vs. Chevron, No. C99-2506SI (N.D. Calif.)—alleges that Chevron, in conjunction with the Nigerian military, engaged in torture, assaults, and the killing of two protesters over Chevron’s environmental record and its failure to hire locals in the delta region near its oil drilling operations. Go to Article

Market Watch: Amazon Defense Coaltion: High-Stakes Trial in San Francisco Focuses Attention on Chevron’s Growing Human Rights Problems Around Globe

Chevron’s recent high-profile hiring of William J. Haynes, a former Bush Administration lawyer implicated in the torture scandal at Guantanamo Bay, is the latest sign that Chevron’s legal department has become increasingly callous to human rights concerns, said Kevin Koenig, an organizer with Amazon Watch, which monitors the company’s human rights and environmental record. Go to Article

Market Watch: Amazon Watch: Chevron Asked to Disclose Relationship to Pat Murphy

The environmental group Amazon Watch today called on Chevron and the San Francisco-based writer Pat Murphy to divulge their financial relationship in light of disclosures that Murphy’s website accepts fees for editorial control of news articles written under Murphy’s byline. Go to Article

Posted in ABC, Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, CBS, Chevron, Nigeria, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »